Parental involvement in the university application process

Parental involvement in the university application process

30 Apr 2024

UES Education

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This informal CPD article ‘Parental involvement in the university application process’ was provided by UES Education, specialists in international university and school admissions, working with top schools across the UK and Europe to provide a bespoke service for those who want the best possible application support in the UK.

Parents, as well as schools and teachers, can be a key component of the university application process. Since the university decision is such a big one with many moving parts, getting the involvement of parents—who care about and know the student well—can be very positive. However, it is important for schools and teachers to manage parental involvement to ensure that the process remains student-centred and student-driven.

The benefits of parental involvement

One major way that parents can contribute helpfully during the university application process is by joining schools and teachers in encouraging and empowering the student to take the main role of accountability in the process. Doing so gives the student space to explore their identity and helps them mature and prepare for further responsibility and independence at university.

Parents can also provide some practical support along the way. Starting around year 9 or 10, parents can help students foster their interests and explore them, whilst giving them space to do so. This is particularly helpful in preparation for US applications, which place more emphasis on extracurricular activities than UK universities do. Parents should encourage their children not to focus on activities that they think will look good on applications, but on what students have genuine passion about. Helping their children stay organised and remember deadlines, but not doing everything for them, is another great way for parents to take on a supporting role.

Additionally, parents can serve as a valuable link to other support structures, including teachers, school counsellors and independent college advisors. They have the power to promote a collaborative relationship between students and these other forms of support.

Parents are also a valuable source of emotional support. They know their children well and can help them see good personal qualities that they might not be aware of. For example, US college essays will require students to reflect on their positive personal qualities and values. Chatting with a parent can help a student develop awareness of these qualities, and the things they have done in their lives that illustrate them.

Some tasks involved in university applications are very complex, and parental help is highly valuable with things like financial aid applications. There are also areas in the application portals that require parental information, like income and education, so parents should be sure to add this in as students may not know this information. Taking children on a tour of colleges can also be a great experience, if this is accessible to families.

How schools can support parents

There are a few things that schools, teachers, and counsellors can do to support parents and manage their input on university applications. One helpful thing to remember when interacting with parents is that they are likely to be feeling a lot of anxiety around the college application process. Giving parents space to air their concerns and have their questions answered is a great way to assuage these feelings, so parental anxiety doesn’t spill over in unhelpful ways.

Sharing information is a great way to address this as well. Particularly, communicating easily digestible information (in something like a monthly email newsletter) when it is needed is a great way to connect with families, reassuring parents that schools are knowledgeable and on top of the process.

When parents do become more difficult to manage, stay professional and establish clear boundaries and expectations. Make sure they know that admission can only be facilitated by counsellors and schools, never guaranteed. Showing data on admission rates can help depersonalise these conversations and defuse them. Shifting parents’ focus from rankings and prestige is also a great idea: not only does it give students a better chance of admission by widening their range, but it also centres students’ personal qualities, ambitions, and growth. When parents ask about how many admissions to prestigious universities your school has had, explaining that most students get offers from their top choice universities can shift the conversation from prestige to fit.

By managing parental expectations and involvement and creating clear boundaries about how they fit into the university application process, schools can get a valuable ally on their side, and make sure students are surrounded by a range of supportive adults.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from UES Education, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.


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For more information from UES Education, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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